It’s not easy to become a wholesaler or retailer on The Grommet e-marketplace.
The company routinely checks out about 200 new artisans for sellers on its retail site every week, subjecting them to reviews that judge several characteristics: Are their products made in the U.S.A.? Is the seller a social enterprise that puts the public good above its own? Are their products really new? Is the seller’s operations crowd-funded?
“We rank them on all of these criteria,” says co-founder and CEO Jules Pieri. “If we rank them high, we get a sample.”
Out of the 200 candidates, The Grommet picks six—then prepares a daily debut, at noon, for each of the six over the course of a week.
Those artisans and their products that make it—for example: GoldieBlox, the building-blocks set designed for girls who just may go on to become engineers and architects; and Idea Paint, which covers common walls and turns them into erasable drawing boards—get their time on TheGrommet.com, with help from The Grommet if necessary to product videos and other product content.
Even the best products have limited time to sell on the retail marketplace. “Once they’re well known, they shouldn’t be on our site,” Pieri says. “Our role is in early-stage product discovery.”
But for the wholesale operation, at wholesale.TheGrommet.com, Pieri and her staff of 50 employees offer to let artisans that have sold well on the retail side become long-term wholesalers. Like the retail site, The Grommet’s wholesale site only collects commissions when products are sold. While The Grommet’s commissions generally run about 50% on products sold at retail, they’re about 15% on wholesale products.
As of this week, The Grommet has signed up about 175 artisans as wholesalers, Pieri says. They include Cuppow, which makes reusable drinking cups and lunch containers made from canning jars; and DrawerDecor, a set of kitchen drawer organizers designed to keep things like knives, corkscrews and bamboo skewers in safe order. To access the wholesale site to view and purchase products, retailers must create an account and log on with an account name and password.
Those 175 wholesalers are still a small percentage of the 1000 artisans on the retail site and of the some 3,000 artisans that The Grommet has featured since it launched in 2008. But Pieri has big plans for continuing to grow the wholesale side, which will eventually account for more than half of The Grommet’s sales, she says.
She adds that The Grommet’s overall sales are on pace to grow about 200% this year, following last year’s growth of 450%.
The Grommet isn’t alone. Etsy, another retail marketplace for artisans, also recently launched a wholesale site.
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